Royals Condition: Critical

We’re roughly midway through the latest critical stretch of the Royals 2016 season. This was determined to be critical due to the fact the Royals have, as you are well aware, scuffled to get back into position for postseason play. It was also determined to be critical because the teams on the schedule – the Twins, White Sox, and A’s – are, by record, the worst in the league. If you were are team fighting for it’s postseason life, you would see how the schedule shaped up for a two week stretch and look to give the esteemed schedule maker a kiss on the lips.

Now? Maybe we’ll settle for a gentle pat on the shoulder.

With seven games remaining in this 14 game frame of good fortune, the Royals have won four and lost three. That’s not a bad record. Against those teams and in this situation, it’s not good enough.

We do this exercise once or twice a week, a check-in on the Royals status in the Wild Card race. At this point, it feels as though this team has firmly decided to tread water. Since their August charge, the Royals have played .500 baseball in September. This is not helpful to the cause.

The playoff odds remain grim. Anything under 10 percent with less than three weeks to play is a cold splash of reality. This is where the Royals have been for weeks. It’s like watching college basketball where one team falls behind 20, makes an amazing push to cut the lead to a basket, whipping the fans into a frenzy and injecting belief into the crowd. Except they can never quite find that go-ahead basket. This is where the Royals find themselves. It was a helluva run to get back into the conversation for the Wild Card, but it was too much to ask that they pull themselves up to even the first team on the outside. There are simply too many teams ahead of them.

Having dampened your expectations, I will say at this point I’m not giving up hope. It’s slim, but there’s still a chance. If you handed me $100 and forced me to place a bet for or against the Royals playoffs, I’d be betting against it happening, but as long as they remain mathematically alive, I’ll stay on board. This isn’t about how the Royals have been left for roadkill only to rise from the pavement to surprise everyone. This is just about what I view as a basic tenet of fandom: hope.

You buy a ticket to go to a game. You hope they win. You follow a team for an entire season. You hope they get to the playoffs.

I’ve written quite a bit about hope these last several weeks, because that’s really what we have at this point. Last year, the team stumbled a bit in September, but the reality was they had played such exceptional baseball up to that point they could afford to lose a couple more games than most would have liked. This year, the script has been flipped.

Nobody said it would ever be easy.


— Did you notice after waiting most of June… and July… and August for Eric Hosmer to rediscover his swing, it seems he’s gotten back on track. Through his first 10 games of September, he’s hitting .343/.429/.714 with four home runs. Meanwhile, Salvador Perez, who missed the game Monday after the birth of his son, has continued his pattern of second half breakdowns, batting .200/.253/.359 since the All-Star break.

— Kendrys Morales was named AL Player of the Week for the second time this season. Morales clubbed five home runs and drove in 14 for the Royals while hitting .409/.500/1.091. With the middle of the order swinging the lumber, it would be nice if the pitching could match the offensive production. Except save for Ian Kennedy’s start in Chicago over the weekend, it seems like the rotation has struggled to keep runners off the bases and runs off the board.

— Yordano Ventura has a 3.46 SO/9 in his last two starts. That’s the same number as his ERA over that time. His walk rate is 5.54 BB/9.

— I’m starting to wonder if Cheslor Cuthbert is nursing an injury or is just fatigued from the grind of his first major league season. He’s hitting .171/.256/.200 this month, .214/.267/.304 over the last 30 days and has seen his defensive performance drop. Specifically, he looks to be short-arming too many throws across the diamond. Hosmer has saved some errors, but he can’t get to them all. His emergence as a viable backup to Mike Moustakas has been one of the better storylines of this season, but his performance has left a lot to be desired of late. Slumps happen and maybe this is what is going on with Cuthbert at the moment. Hopefully, he can get back on track down the stretch.

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